COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Arrived: Mathieu Garon (PIT), Samuel Pahlsson (CHI), Mathieu Roy (EDM), Pascal Pelletier (CHI)
Departed:Aaron Rome (VAN), Ole-Kirstan Tollefsen (PHI), Wade Dubielewicz (MIN)
Congratulations Blue Jackets you have finally made the post season. And your first round opponent will be……the defending Stanley Cup championship Detroit Red Wings. Well, it was a short and not very sweet spring for the Blue Jackets in their first playoff appearance, being swept aside by the Red Wings in 4 games. The Jackets made a few minor off season moves picking up a great shutdown forward in Pahlsson and a backup to rookie sensation Steve Mason in Garon. However they failed to address their biggest need; a puck-moving defenseman to quarterback the NHL’s worst power-play from a season ago. With such a poor power-play and coach Ken Hitchcock’s defense first system Blue Jacket players rarely live up to their fantasy potential. This may begin to change as the Jackets have begun to bring in more offensive talent.
FANTASY WORTHY FORWARDS
Rick Nash (LW) – Sorry Leaf fans, but during the off-season Nash signed an extension that will keep him a Blue Jacket until 2018. Although Nash has become a household name in the NHL, in his six year career he has yet to have an 80 point season (79 last season). Still, Nash is only 25 and his best days are ahead of him. He has improved his point total in each year of his career (39,57,54,57,69,79) except the 05/06 season when recorded 54 points in 54 games. The Blue Jackets now seem committed to surrounding Nash with quality NHL players. Huselius, Umberger, and Vermette will help Nash’s production, not to mention youngsters Derrick Brassard and Nikita Filatov. Barring serious injury this will be the year Rick Nash breaks 80 points I would expect somewhere between 85 and 90 with around 45 goals. Nash’s plus/minus will no longer hurt your team either, credit Ken Hitchcock for turning him into a complete player. Try to grab him early second round or earlier.
Kristian Huselius (LW) – After two strong seasons in Calgary in which he put up 66 and 77 points, Huselius’ stats were a victim of Hitchcock’s defensive system as he scored only 21 times and added 35 assists in his first season in Columbus. Huselius should see ample powerplay time this season and could turn out to be a solid third left winger for fantasy owners. Keep an eye out to see if he gains right wing eligibility as well.
Derrick Brassard (C) – Brassard got off to a hot start at the beginning of last season putting up 25 points (10 G, 15 A) in 31 games with a plus 12 rating making him the early favourite for the Calder Trophy. Unfortunately, he suffered a shoulder injury that required season ending surgery. If Brassard’s shoulder holds up this season he could be a solid 3rd center on your squad and potentially higher if he sticks on a line with Rick Nash, a spot he will be battling for with RJ Umberger and Antoine Vermette.
RJ Umberger (C) – After a breakout 50 point season and a great playoff run with the Flyers in 2007/08, expectations were high for Umberger in his first season in Columbus. Umberger finished the season with only 46 points and was a miserable minus 11. Much like Brassard if Umberger spends most of the season centering Rick Nash he would make a strong depth center on most teams.
Nikita Filatov (LW) – A pure sniper: a lot of people will be shocked if Filatov doesn’t make the Jackets’ final roster out of training camp. He played limited minutes in 8 NHL games last season, had 10 shots on goal and 4 of them went in the net. Filatov could end up being a late round steal or a solid free agent pickup, especially in a keeper league.
Keep an Eye On: Antoine Vermette
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Steve Mason – Not taking anything away from Steve Mason, but much like Pascal Leclaire did when he had 9 shutouts two season ago with, Mason’s stats seems to benefit from the defensive style of play of Columbus. That being said, Mason is still the best young goalie in the league, recording 9 shutouts and capturing the Calder Trophy last season as the NHL’s best rookie. He is a lock to have a goals against average under 2.50, a save percentage above .900 and could single handedly win all goalie categories for you in any give week.